Discrepancies in Sequoia Advantage machines

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Ed Felten reports on inconsistencies in the vote totals reported by Sequoia Advantage voting machines in New Jersey (Note: these machines are different from the touch screen machines we looked at in the California TTBR, so I don't have any inside information.) Anyway, the anomaly is that the number of votes for Democratic and Republican candidates doesn't match the number of times that the ballots were activated. If the number of votes were less than the number of ballots, you could explain that as an undervote, but in the results tape Ed shows, the Republican ballot was selected 60 times and there were 61 votes!

I haven't thought much about potential causes (Ed's commenters theorize) but my money is on simple bugs in the system rather than an attack. If you were an attacker and you had managed to take control of the machine, one of the first things you would want to do is make certain that the results were consistent. Moreover, since this is a primary and not a general election, an attacker wouldn't really benefit from moving votes from one party to another. Much easier (and harder to get caught) to move them from one candidate to another within a party.

Not that this should make you feel any better, since the most basic function of voting machines is to correctly count votes. It shoud also make you wonder about both Sequoia's testing and the testing done by the certification labs. We already know that it's insufficient from a security perspective, but (assuming the problem is in the system), then this seems like it should have been caught by the testing/SQA process.

Sequoia's explanation can be found here. Felten says it's inadequate and that he'll explain why tomorrow. Stay tuned.

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